Definitely how easy traveling with a baby all depends on your own baby! Every baby is so different, but hopefully these tips are helpful. Life doesn’t stop when you have a baby, so don’t be afraid to travel to all sorts of places with your baby! Before age 2, babies fly free on domestic flights, while on international flights the ticket price will range from 10-15% of the fare depending on the airline. Once they start getting closer to 2 years old, it may be more comfortable with their own seat though 🙂 The Federal Aviation Administration and the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends that you use an approved car seat or CARES harness for increased safety however.
WHAT TO BRING
- STROLLER – depending on age of the baby: regular stroller or umbrella stroller. As a baby, Cooper would fall asleep in his car seat/stroller combination very easily. As he got older, we used an umbrella stroller. Consider using a stroller bag or even a trash bag to cover the stroller to protect it from the dirt from the airplane once gate checked. Also, make sure you don’t have anything attached to the stroller – my mommy hook was gone once I got my stroller back 🙁
- CAR SEAT – if renting a car, would highly recommend you bring your own car seat instead of renting one from a car rental company. Some shuttle companies have rental car seats, but I’ve found them to be pretty out of date. We also purchased a bag to cover our car seat knowing it would likely be thrown around a lot by the airlines
- BABY CARRIER – if your baby is able to use one of these, take advantage so you can have two hands free! Unfortunately, Baby Cooper hated these so we didn’t use one. I was jealous of all my friends who took full advantage of using one! Most of their babies seemed to sleep really well in one and then you might not need to bring a stroller depending on your preference
- LUGGAGE – You want to minimize as much luggage as you can because you want as many hands free as possible. We pack one LARGE luggage with my husband, my stuff and the baby’s stuff. We have traveled with one large luggage checked vs. two carry on luggage – one large luggage is definitely the way to go! The more hands you have free, the better it is!
- CARRY ON ITEMS – Bring a large bag or backpack for your carry on items, keep it as light as possible. I would bring
- Insulated lunch box/cooler with an ice pack – bring enough milk, pre-filled bottles if possible or measured out water for formula. You want to keep everything as easy as possible. The airplanes don’t always have milk, but usually if it’s a morning flight, you can get a small carton of milk. Sometimes the milk is specially processed and definitely not organic or whole milk.
- Depending on baby’s age: Milk, Bottles, Sippy Cup, Food & Snacks, Spoon, Bibs, Cloths, Swaddle Blankets, Toys, Diapers, Diaper Pad, Wipes, Pacifier, Small Blanket, extra change of clothes for you and the baby, iPAD (depending on preference and age of baby), pack extra plastic bags for wet clothes/throw ups/ messes (EXPECT messes!)
- Medications to consider: Pedialyte, Baby Tyenol, check with your pediatrician about dosage depending on age of the child
- Breast pump – I carried on my electric breast pump so I could pump before the flight since we preferred to give Cooper bottles of expressed milk since it was less awkward on the plane with a stranger in our row for me personally. I have even pumped on the plane using the outlet in my seat when I traveled alone and wanted to keep up my supply (luckily I had two lovely understanding ladies sitting next to me when I traveled alone). Definitely consider traveling with a manual pump when you don’t have an outlet available
- Depending on your trip location, just remember, you can buy extra supplies there if needed or if you forget something!
WHAT TO EXPECT
- GATE CHECK your stroller and car seat, if the baby does not need the car seat at the airport, then I would recommend checking the car seat (majority of airlines will do this for FREE and I heard some are really nice and even allow you to check a Pack ‘n Play etc. Just ask!). If you gate check any items, you will need to get a tag BEFOREHAND so don’t wait till the last minute when they are calling families to board first! Go to the gate counter and ask if you need a tag for your stroller/car seat
- If you are lucky and there is an extra seat on your flight, you can actually bring your car seat onto the plane. Ask ahead of time when checking in!
- You will need to put your car seat and stroller through the X –RAY machine with your luggage so place your entire luggage on the belt, place liquids in a separate bin, take off your shoes, and place the stroller/car seat last
- If you are pregnant or traveling with children, TSA typically will not make you go through the body scanner machine. You can also request not to go through those machines and go through the metal detector instead with an additional pat down
- You can bring anything baby liquid related through the airport, i.e. milk, formula, bottles of water, baby food, etc. Also when I was breastfeeding, I brought back a lot of bags of pumped milk in an insulated lunch box with an ice pack. They will make you do another screening to check the liquids but it isn’t a problem for anything over 4 oz. [USA airports, know your rights]
- There are also family rooms where you can nurse or pump as well in many airports, but you just need to figure out where they are. SFO had a private nursing room so I used that to pump when I was there (traveled without the baby) and change the baby when I had him
- The pressure from take off typically hurts the baby’s ear, so it’s a good time to give them a bottle of milk, breastfeed or give them the pacifier!
- Wipe down the seat handles and table tray ahead of time if you have a mobile baby who loves touching everything!
- If you are taking an international flight, call the airlines beforehand and ask for bassinet. The bassinet is really helpful to give you some extra space regardless if you think the baby will sleep in there or not. They only have a limited amount and there is a certain weight and height requirement for the bassinet (check your airlines for more information)
- Baby MUST have passport for international travel. A ticket will be issued for the baby However, for domestic travel, depending on the airline, no ticket may be issued
- Go to the airport EXTRA EARLY! Getting to your flight with a baby can be stressful just do to the sheer amount of stuff and depending on the temperament of the baby that day! You do not definitely want to rush before your flight and give yourself extra time to change the baby’s diaper before the flight! For a larger plane, they definitely have a changing table, however I have been on a smaller one and didn’t notice one before so likely dependent on the plane and airline
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCES
FOUR MONTHS – our first family trip for my birthday
Traveling at 4 months was super easy, but our flight was also shorter compared to 8 months and beyond. We flew to Montreal from D.C., which is less than 2 hours if non stop.
Cooper slept easily on the plane and in his car seat attached to the stroller so it made traveling around really easy. He loved his pacifier at the time so that really helped as well. I was breastfeeding at the time so I tried to breastfeed him on the plane, but he didn’t latch well and truthfully it felt awkward for me. I personally just prefer the comfort of somewhere more private. Depends on you, but I preferred bringing a bottle of expressed milk for Cooper to feed him on the plane or when we were out and about. He has always breastfed for an extended period of time so it was much faster to feed him with a bottle when we went out or so no one had to wait for us since we went with a group of friends. If you do prefer doing expressed milk, make sure you bring some ahead of time so you don’t have to play catch up as much in producing!
The great part about taking him while being so young is that the trip is still about you guys and you can do whatever you want to do! He pretty much would just fall asleep in his stroller and we went out and about and traveled like we didn’t have a baby. The downfall was that he didn’t sleep through the night yet so we were pretty tired since we were traveling at a much faster pace. If you have a baby, try to slow down and remember you can’t travel like you use to! Nap time is needed for everyone!
EIGHT MONTHS – 1st International trip: Dominican Republic
At 8 months, Cooper was SUPER active so he didn’t like to be confined. He was pretty mobile at the time, crawling everywhere, and up and down the stairs. On the flight, he kept trying to climb over the seats. When I tried to rock him to sleep, he kept kicking himself awake and had a hard time getting comfortable in my arms. It was honestly pretty terrible. I had several other friends travel with their baby who was around Cooper’s age and fared WAY better. I think he just wasn’t having it. There were other babies on the flight who were older and younger than him and they were relatively quiet, haha! We were definitely THOSE parents we didn’t want to be with flying with Cooper the second time around. He was just so great on his first trip, we just assumed he would be good again (THINK AGAIN!)
I would definitely recommend a lot of snacks and make sure you have enough milk! I am a terrible mom and I didn’t end up bringing enough formula so we had very little formula on the way home, which did not help a cranky baby! We brought toys and a book, but this baby only wanted to climb seats, move around, and look at everyone!
Screen time is up to any parent, especially since American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time under 18 months, but honestly the iPAD saved us for our next trip. We were slightly traumatized after his trip to Dominican Republic, we loaded up the iPAD with downloaded videos and baby games. If you have YouTube Red, you can download a bunch of offline videos for them to watch. We also brought new toys for him to play with. At this age, he was definitely much better and we used the iPAD as needed to keep him entertained and in his seat. We brought grandma to both our trips to Dominican Republic and Jamaica so that was really helpful and it made the trip a lot more relaxing for us!
Cooper was much more entertained and stayed in his seat. I would have to say this trip was a success, which helped our other trips at 19 months to Atlanta and 22 months to San Francisco.
As 22 months – LONGEST FLIGHT SO FAR
A lot of parents have traveled with their infants and babies to much further destinations, but our 6 hour flight from Washington D.C. to San Francisco, was the furthest one we have had so far! I was worried since Duy wasn’t coming with us, but luckily I caught my brother’s flight so I had an extra hand to help me. An extra person to help you is always nice especially going through security, gate checking your items, and having a toddler try to run EVERYWHERE. We got super lucky and scored our own seat on the flight so sometimes you DO get lucky!
ENJOY YOUR TRIP!
Just remember babies CRY and it’s okay. I’ve definitely been the parent with the worst crying baby on the plane, you feel so bad, but sometimes there is only so much you can do. Everyone has been understanding and really kind on the flights I’ve been on so I hope you find the same! I think if you are at least trying to calm down your child and not ignore the fact they keep kicking someone’s chair, people typically are pretty good-natured. Good luck!
If you have taken a flight with your baby or toddler, any advice you can share?
Here is a no photos version for download of this post if you care for it! I also added a section about traveling without the baby while still breastfeeding in the PDF version
DISCLOSURE: Affiliate links are contained within this post. As always, all opinions and products recommended are mine alone